2012-09-26

Why Doesn't Society Just Think With One Brain?

Many of you, like me, think you have it all figured out. What's more, you probably do have it all figured out. Let's face it, if people just thought and behaved more like you, the world would be a better place.

The problem, as we all keep hearing, is that people aren't rational. For one thing, we have people telling us that human decisions in the economic realm aren't rational, and can be improved with helpful suggestions / increase transaction costs (however you want to look at it). On the other hand, we have people telling us that human decisions in the political realm aren't rational, either.

Because you and I have it all figured out, we can appreciate theories like these. After all, if people weren't so stupid, the world wouldn't have so many problems. People make bad decisions, right? And quite frankly, this is because people want the wrong things. They want to spend thousands of dollars on flashy cars and fancy parties rather than pay public school teachers more. I mean, where are their priorities? They prefer fun to work! I can't understand that, and neither can you, because you and I know better. Who cares what people prefer? The fact of the matter is, some preferences are perhaps in some sense "better" than others.

Wouldn't it be great if anyone who didn't think properly could simply be prevented from thinking at all? Wouldn't it be great if we could construct a giant surrogate brain that thinks properly, so that those who don't know how to use the one they've been given could just hook up to the surrogate and think the correct thoughts?

What might such a brain think, on a regular basis? Such a brain might think:
  • That reading Stationary Waves is an incredibly worthwhile thing to do.
  • That football is thuggish and stupid, while soccer is cosmopolitan and gender-neutral.
  • That any behavior that adversely impacts "society" is wrong and should never be engaged in (such as drinking soda pop, self-tanning, or using Primatene Mist).
Above all, the brain wouldn't be stupid or irrational. That's the main thing. If stupid people can't think smart, then the last thing we want them to do is think stupid.

But Seriously
Has anyone actually considered what life would be like if people were more uniform, reliable, and more like me/you/whoever? What might such a universe actually look like? How would it be?

For one thing, you wouldn't have to worry about all those pesky people who disagree with you about stuff (especially political stuff). Think about that for a minute. Really, think about it. This sort of implies that most people on Earth would resemble your closest circle of friends, the ones who know you best, the ones who offer you the best advice, the ones who are interested in the same stuff you are, the ones who generally get it.

So think about your closest circle of friends for a minute. Of those friends, how many of them are:
  • Particle physicists?
  • Nobel laureates?
  • Inventors of new medical procedures and/or technologies?
  • Inventors of useful things, in general?
  • World-class artists or creative people on par with society's most celebrated living artists?
  • Olympic-caliber athletes?
  • Visionary businesspeople?
Doubtless, some of you are good friends with people in one of those categories. Even more of you know people like that in your extended circle of friends. A great many of you have met or know of people in those categories. But we're not talking about mere acquaintance. We're talking about your closest personal friends, the ones you wish the world were a lot more like.

I'm sure you see where I'm going with this.

The fact of the matter is that human society is diverse for a reason. Diversity is good for human survival. Genetic diversity, for example, is the benchmark of a hearty and adaptable species. Intellectual diversity is the hallmark of a great society.

Conclusion
The best way I can think to put it is this: A society that looks more like you is a society that has fewer people who are not like you, and that includes a great many people you desperately need to survive, whether they are doctors, security officers, accountants, computer techs, farmers, or anyone else.

There are too many wonderful people who are nothing like you. Society would be far worse off if it looked and thought more like you, even if you really do have it all figured out.